I would break down collaboration into two major categories; long term, where you develop a mutually beneficial relationship that you expect to grow and develop over time; temporary, where you engage in a short term relationship for a particular initiative.  A long term collaborative relationship may best be identified as one that supports essential activities within the network, such as shipping or financial services.  A short term, or temporary, collaborative relationship may best be identified as one that supports a limited, or specific, specialize service for a short period of time.  The best example of the temporary relationship is probably temporary, or contract, labor where you engage labor with specialized skills that are only required for a specific task or initiative.

Temporary collaboration is best exemplified in contract labor services and these service may be provided directly to the end customer or through another party.  One aspect of larger management consulting firms that I find fascinating is their practice of contracting for specialized services from local staffing firms to support their contract services requirements.  In other words these firms have a base of staff and skills and then contract with local staffing companies to fill specialized or even general staff increases for specific initiatives.  These contract staffing resources are ‘branded’ through the large management consulting firm so their client believes they are receiving support from the name brand firm when in reality they are simply paying for a marked up contract staffing.

I believe this practice should be embraced by companies and especially collaborative networks to extend their capabilities and support short term increases in needs or short term or special initiatives.  This can be done as an activity by each of the partners within your network or I think a better way would be to add a staffing service to your collaborative network.  This staffing company would bring to the table the network and relationships of temporary staffing and the temporary staffing market to support the temporary needs of your collaborative network.  In this manner you would not have to perform the search and the skills analysis yourself, let your staffing partner that specializes in temporary staffing services to provide these services.

I would suggest though that rather than view this staffing requirement as a short term specific need, you should take the long view.  In other words rather than simply engaging the staffing firm on an as-needed basis, I suggest that you add staffing firms to your long term collaborative network.  The reason is simple, I think you will or already have found that temporary staffing is a long term requirement that would be best addressed through a long term relationship with a staffing firm.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you identify and address new opportunities in your current business market?  Have you ever tried to develop a SWOT focused on new business opportunities or new markets  to evaluate the fit for partnership and as a means to address and meet new opportunities?  Do you regularly develop a SWOT analysis to evaluate your internal capabilities and needs to support new business and market opportunities?